- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins - US (14 February 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0380804794
- ISBN-13: 978-0380804795
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 363 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Monty Python Speaks Paperback – 14 Feb 2001
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From the Back Cover
Monty Python, the genius comedy troupe from Britain, single-handedly revolutionized sketch comedy and paved the way for everything from Saturday Night Live to Austin Powers. Now, in their official oral history, founding members John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin take readers behind the scenes in this no-holds-barred look at their lives and unforgettable comic works like "The Spanish Inquisition," "Dead Parrot," Monty Python's Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Spamalot), and many, many more, with never-before-seen photos and rare interviews from friends and collaborators.
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All of the Python projects have been well documented. There’s almost more material out there about the team than there is actual original material.
That’s a bit where this books suffers. Yes, it’s chocked full of interview snippets from the group, as well as those closely associated with them, but you can’t really help feel that you’ve read most of this stuff before. The author wisely chooses the chronological approach. We first read about the pre Python days when all of the members were working on various television projects in Britain. We then read about the successful “Flying Circus” television program. Then, we transfer to the brief times from 1974-1983 and read a bit about each of the three feature films. There’s some focus on the individual projects (there were many), but not really that much. After all, this is supposed to be about the group, not the individuals.
The interview process throughout the book also seemed a bit haphazard. There were periods in the team’s history, where it seems only one or two people are being interviewed. Many times this person wasn’t even a Python member. I seem to recall one stretch of several pages where the only person interviewed was the author Douglas Adams (“Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”). So it does seem oddly uneven at times.
There were also parts of the book that I simply didn’t find as interesting as I had hoped. When we get to the time period featuring “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, for instance, it seems as though 90% of the interviews dealt with the describing the differences between the two directors, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.
You do learn a bit more about the personalities. John Cleese seemed to be a bit insufferable once he became bored early in the television program, Terry Gilliam seems to now only enjoy comedy about anarchistic tendencies to blow everything up, Graham Chapman seemed to be aloof and lazy, and Michael Palin, fortunately, seemed to be a very likable, amiable fellow. Speaking of Cleese and Gilliam, it also seems from this book that the two really didn’t get along very well.
This is a good read if you’re a fan, but it is by no means a “must” read. The history of this comedy troupe has been so well documented in so many formats that you’ll only pick up a few things that you didn’t already know. For the diehard fan only.
It was written for someone who has seen the movies and sketches. If the reader is not familiar with the work of this group, they will find themselves either seeking out that work or lost in some of the detail. For instance, a sketch may be mentioned (i.e. the Parrot Sketch) but if the reader has not seen the Parrot Sketch (you really should...it is typical Python) then the comments will be a challenge to understand.
I believe I came away with a better understanding of this group after the reading and after all isn't that the reason people read biographies.
The history covers their pre-Python development, the television show, the movies and the Python’s individual creative efforts. I thought it was really well done.
I, of course, miss hearing from Graham. He died way too young. I also was surprised that Connie Booth did not make an appearance.
This was a lot of fun to read and I learned quite a bit.
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